Baby Cafés: How They Help Mothers Achieve Their Breastfeeding GoalsMar 06, 2023
Let’s face it- breastfeeding can be a challenge! From the early days of just getting started, to future challenges such as growth spurts, teething and weaning, there are multiple times when breastfeeding mothers may need support. For some mothers, there are even more daunting challenges, like poor weight gain, allergies or over-production.
Baby Café USA to the rescue!
Baby Café USA, Inc., (BCUSA), 501(c)(3), was established in 2011 to promote the development of licensed, drop-in, free-of-charge, standardized breastfeeding support sites which offer peer support coupled with professional lactation care. Specific standards include regular weekly sessions and the presence or oversight of an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Many cafes also offer guest speakers on various helpful subjects, and social media forums where mothers connect, sharing breastfeeding knowledge and experiences.
Breastfeeding support groups have been shown to be an important part of supporting breastfeeding families. So important in fact, that the World Health Organization included support groups as a part of the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Step 10 states: “Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from hospitals or clinics.”
So, why is that? Attendance at a breastfeeding support group, particularly one facilitated by an IBCLC such as the Baby Café model, has been shown to:
- Improve breastfeeding exclusivity
- Improve breastfeeding self-efficacy
As lactation care providers we know the benefits of breastfeeding exclusivity. Let’s take a look at what breastfeeding self-efficacy is, and why it’s important.
“Self-efficacy is a person's belief in their ability to complete a task or achieve a goal. It encompasses a person's confidence in themselves to control their behavior, exert an influence over their environment, and stay motivated in the pursuit of their goal.” People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:
- Develop a deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
- Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
- Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments
- View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
Breastfeeding self-efficacy captures how a mother perceives her ability to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding support groups foster self-efficacy in three ways:
- Social Modeling - There are a large number of women in our culture who have never even seen breastfeeding! Observation is one of the best parts about getting together with other breastfeeding mothers. Seeing others putting in effort, overcoming challenges, and succeeding, improves a mother’s own belief in her ability to succeed. Observing what it looks like to breastfeed a 3-month old baby, a 1-year old or twins is much more likely to be beneficial, than any form of non-observational learning.
- Social Persuasion - Support from other mothers in the form of positive feedback and encouragement can improve a mom’s ability to achieve her breastfeeding goals. Verbal encouragement can help mothers overcome self-doubt. It’s like having someone say “You can do it!” when you are feeling challenged.
- Helping others - This is another important part of participating in support groups. As mothers continue to participate, they move from being the newest of moms, to becoming the mom that has gathered some experience. They then become the encourager and supporter, and this, in turn, boosts their own confidence even more.
I have been privileged to be involved with Baby Café USA since its establishment in 2011. I have seen the positive effect it has had on hundreds of families over the years. Even throughout the 2020 pandemic when most of the Baby Cafes went virtual, mothers continued to attend and find support. The combination of mother-to-mother support, in addition to the presence or availability of an IBCLC is the key to Baby Café success. Here is a beautiful testimony which exemplifies how the Baby Café improves outcomes:
“I didn’t have any particular difficulties with breastfeeding but, like most new moms, I had lot of uncertainty and felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. At my first Baby Café session, I was going to write on the sign-in sheet that my goal was to nurse for six months. When I saw that most others were aiming for 12 months, I increased my goal (and worried that I was setting myself up for failure). I am proud to say that I breastfed my daughter until 2 weeks before her third birthday. Baby Café got me started off on the right foot and normalized breastfeeding beyond the infant stage. I appreciated all of the tips and encouragement from you, the other professionals, and the other moms who really inspired me to keep going. Thank you so much for creating this wonderful space.”
Baby Café USA was founded by Lucia Jenkins, RN, IBCLC. There are currently over 145 licensed Baby Café’s in 27 states. For more information, or to learn how to open a Baby Café in your community, please visit www.babycafeusa.org or take our “Baby Café USA” course at www.lactationcollege.com and earn a CERP, CEU or CME.
 Jenkins L, Barnes K, Latter A, et al. Examining the Baby Café model and mothers’ breastfeeding duration, meeting of goals and exclusivity. Breastfeed Med. 2020 May;(15)5:331-334.
 Baby-Friendly USA. “Guidelines and Evaluation Criteria for Facilities Seeking Baby-Friendly Designation.” Albany, NY: Baby-Friendly USA, 2016.
 Cherry, K. How self efficacy helps you achieve your goals. Verywell Mind, 2023 Feb 27 https://www.verywellmind.com/whais-self-efficacy-2795954.
 Brockway M, Benzies KM, Carr E. et al. Breastfeeding self-efficacy and breastmilk feeding for moderate and late preterm infants in the Family Integrated Care trial: a mixed methods protocol. Int Breastfeed J. 2018;13:29.
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